When I first began writing, I thought it was the easiest thing in the world. I wrote daily, stringing words together into wondrous stories. Then I sent my work out and was rejected over and over again. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, so I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I laid my pen down, and gave up. In the back of my mind, I still believed that one day I would be a writer.
After years of avid reading, I looked back at those pieces and saw major problems. There was no rhythm to the prose. The characters moved around from one point to the next with no thoughts. My writing lacked emotion and detail.
I began writing once again. Three years later, I still hadn’t sent anything out in hopes of publication. No rejections. You may consider this a waste of time, writing with no rewards, but still no rejections. A true writer writes for the joy of it, not the promise of fame. The truth was I was still learning and hadn’t reached what I consider my time to submit.
I’ve recently began submitting and receiving rejections. Now, I don’t look at the rejections as a bad sign. I look at them as stepping stones. It may be a long walk, but each step will bring me closer to being a published writer.
I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the years.
There are many tools that you will use, but there are four I’d say that are a must. They are: American Heritage College Dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, Punctuation Plain & Simple by Edgar C. and Jean A. Alward, and William Strunk Jr., and E.B. White’s The Element of Style. These should be on every writer’s bookshelf, and don’t forget to use them.
Writer groups have both good and bad points. Writing is a solitary job and will become very lonely. It’s good to have a few people around who share the same ambition in life, even if they are in cyber-space. But on the downside, you can read too much into criticism. You must be careful when having your work critiqued. Everyone has an opinion, and they are not always correct. Your story is just that, yours. Now, I’m not saying to turn a blind eye to the truth. If you have five people read your story, and they all ask why your character did this, chances are you haven’t provided motivation for your character’s actions. Trust in yourself to know which advice to take and which to discard.
Reading is a major part of a writer’s life, because you learn from the examples of others. Your ideas will grow and techniques will improve. I asked a member of one of my writing groups what type of books he read. His answer was he didn’t have time to read, he was too busy writing. If you don’t read, how can you begin to know how to write? Each day should include some sort of reading; consider it part of your job. And by all means, enjoy yourself.
Writing, of course, is the most critical issue. It should become part of your daily routine. Most writers compose and rearrange scenes in their mind, which is perfectly fine, but you have to sit down at some point. Every writer has a different routine. It is important to establish what works for you. Start out slow, maybe thirty minutes a day, and increase the time limit as it feels right.
Self-editing should be separated from your writing time. Don’t let that part of your mind mess with you while you create. Find a different location to do this task if necessary. Let your piece sit for a few days. Try to detach yourself from it, as if it was written by another. Like writing, you will also need practice at editing. One way to get practice is to edit another writer's work. It’s easier to see flaws in writing other than your own.
I would also like to suggest reading material of an inspirational level. There are many articles and books out there telling you how to write. I’m not saying not to read these, but don’t dwell on them. There is no simple plan to show you how to write that best seller. I suggest reading the few that tell you why they do it.
One, in particular, I would like to recommend is Stephen King’s On Writing. He offers a few pointers, but what I enjoyed was the way he lets you step into his world and begin to understand why this man is so widely read. He writes for himself, as you should write for yourself. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?
Above all else, a writer needs ambition and drive. If your desire isn't strong enough, you won’t get very far. Writing is hard work; it’s more than stringing words together. You must be able to create worlds and characters that the reader wants to get to know.
Now go, create something wonderful.
Feel free to share your thoughts. Are you a struggling writer trying to get published? Have you found the path to publication? There is always something to learn from others. Share with me what you’ve learned along the way. Ask questions.
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